Aviation is a passion and a lifestyle for those who love to fly.
“There is a famous saying in aviation,” Sean Donohue, chief executive officer of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, said. “To most people the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home.”
Donohue made the comment at the 2015 Gala for the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas on Saturday, May 16. During the event, Donohue received the George E. Haddaway Award. The award recognized Donohue’s 28-year career as an aviation leader and celebrated DFW International Airport’s service to North Texas as well as its ties throughout the world.
“Tonight we celebrate the magic of aviation,” Donohue said. “For more than 100 years, aviation has changed the way we work, live and travel.”
More than 600 people attended the annual fundraiser at the museum.
Donohue focused many of his comments on the late Jan Collmer, an aviation enthusiast and pilot who helped found the Frontiers of Flight Museum 29 years ago. Collmer died in January from myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disease, according to published reports.
“He was an aviator and an entrepreneur who knew no bounds,” Donohue said. “At DFW, the team fondly remembers the day in 1996 when he helped dedicate our seventh runway, cutting the ribbon with the propeller of his plane as he flew by just feet off the ground. You still hear that story to this day.”
A video of Collmer flying his plane – at age 74 – showed him tilting, diving and swirling across the sky.
- Robert Smith and his wife, Carmella, of Dallas attended the gala in honor of Collmer, who was a close friend.
“My whole life has been in flying,” Smith said.
Smith was the pilot for the flying scenes for the movie, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, a 1954 film set in the Korean War that starred William Holden and Grace Kelly.
“The sound stage was bigger than (AT&T) Stadium,” he said.
Smith served in the Korean War as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, an admiral and major general.
A short film was aired that featured the Liberty Jump Team, a World War II military parachute exhibition group of active duty and veterans. The film, Dirty ½ Dozen, also featured cameo appearances by the following local figures from Dallas and Fort Worth:
DFW International Airport Board Chair, Lillie Biggins
DFW International Airport Board Vice Chair, Sam Coats
Director of Aviation, City of Dallas Aviation Department Mark Duebner
Former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief
President & CEO, Dallas Regional Chamber Dale Petroskey
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
President & CEO, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Bill Thornton
The keynote speaker for the gala was Amelia Rose Earhart, the youngest woman to fly around the world in a single-engine aircraft. She also is president of the Fly With Amelia Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers flight-training scholarships to young women.
Her parents named her after Amelia Mary Earhart, who attempted to fly around the world in 1937.
“Why on earth would I have that name?” Earhart said. “I’m not related. My family’s last name is Earhart, spelled the same way.”
Her parents named her Amelia after one of the most passionate and adventurous women out there.
“They gave me some pretty big shoes to fill,” Earhart said. “I became my version of Amelia Earhart.”
Money raised from the gala helps support the museum’s mission of education that annually serves more than 12,000 students. The museum this year expanded its six-week Science of Flight program to include 23 Dallas Independent School District elementary school campuses. The museum’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program reaches out to young women and economically disadvantaged students, among others.